In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled. 30.3 million adults in the United States have diabetes, so you may have heard of it, may know someone who has it, or may even have diabetes yourself, but 1 in 4 Americans don't know they have it or what symptoms to look for.
What Exactly Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is your main source of energy and comes from the food you eat.
Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. Sometimes your body doesn't make enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin well. Glucose then stays in your blood and doesn't reach your cells.
Diabetes can be 1 of 3 types: type 1, type 2, or gestational. All 3 are metabolic disorders that affect the way the body uses (metabolizes) food to make glucose.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease. Your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas that make insulin. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can appear at any age. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day to stay alive.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes happens when the body cannot make enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. You may not notice any symptoms, so it's important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 diabetes may be controlled with diet, exercise, and weight loss, or may need oral medicines or insulin injections.
Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM)
GDM happens in pregnant women who have not had diabetes in the past and her body cannot effectively use the insulin that is present. This may be controlled with diet, exercise, and attention to weight gain. Women with this type of diabetes may need to take medicines to control their glucose. They may be at higher risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.
What Are Symptoms Of Diabetes?
Diabetes symptoms can vary person to person, based on high your blood sugar levels are. Some people with diabetes may not experience any symptoms and some may have symptoms that come quickly and become severe.
The symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes are:
- Increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Extreme hunger
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
- Frequent infections, such as gums or skin infections and vaginal infections
When Should I Get Tested For Diabetes?
According to federal guides, a person should get checked for diabetes if:
- They are over 45 years old
- If they are younger than 45 years and are overweight or obese, meaning having a body mass index of 25 or more
- Have a mother, father, brother, or sister with diabetes
- Part of a high-risk ethnic group. This means African American, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native Alaskan, or Native American
- Had heart and blood vessel disease in the past
- Have blood pressure at 140/90 mm/Hg or higher. Or are taking medicine for high blood pressure
- Have blood fat levels that are not normal
- Are not active
- Had impaired glucose tolerance during a past test for diabetes
- Are a woman with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Have been diagnosed with prediabetes
Are You At Risk?
Take a quiz or download our free diabetes guide to find out if you have some of the risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes.